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In a World of Mallets: Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet

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In a World of Mallets highlights the growth of Jason Marsalis as a full-fledged vibraphonist. Sure, he worked on the instrument for years before releasing his first vibes album, Music Update, in 2009, but he hedged his bets with a handful of overdubbed drum features that comprised more than a third of the tracks on that disc. The remaining music revealed him to be an engaging but still rudimentary vibes stylist, furthering the impression that this foray fell somewhere between a lark and an experiment.

Lest there be any doubt Marsalis wanted a do-over, three songs from Update are repeated on Mallets in pretty much the same order. The comparative enhancements in Marsalis’ technique are not dramatic but vital nevertheless, from the shape and integrity of his notes on the simple waltz “Ballet Class,” to the way he lofts and paces the tempo on the ballad “Characters,” to the sprightly confidence with which he roams on “Blues for the 29%ers.”

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